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News

LA council votes to delay community center update

LA council votes to delay community center update


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council voted to delay adoption of a community center conceptual design plan last week. The plan includes elements from a design charette held earlier this fall, left.

The Los Altos City Council last...

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Schools

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
During a Science is Learning geology lesson, Theuerkauf Elementary School students learn about igneous rocks by observing how sugar changes form when heated.

Hundreds of local elementary students perform experiments w...

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Community

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
PYT’s “Oklahoma!” features, from left, David Peters of Mountain View, Jenna Levere of Los Altos and Kai Wessel of Mountain View.

Time is running out to catch Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!”...

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Sports

Eagles advance

Eagles advance


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Carmen Annevelink, left, and Kristen Liu put up a block against Mountain View. Annevelink totaled 20 kills.

Mountain View High’s out-of-the-gate energy could last for only so long against rival and he...

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Comment

Coping with addictions: Haugh About That?

Preparing to deal with my lifelong addiction, I stood in front of the mirror ready to confess the shame I’d been hiding. The first step to healing, I reminded myself, is to admit something is wrong.

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Special Sections

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One


Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Hangar One, pictured here last January, will be restored under an agreement between Google and NASA.

NASA and Google Inc. forged an agreement last week that allows Google to lease a portion of NASA’s historic Moffett Fede...

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Business

State Street science center closing Nov. 30

State Street science center closing Nov. 30


Ellie Van Houtte/
Helix at 316 State St. is closing after the completion of a one-year grant from Passerelle Investment Co. The science center became a popular destination because of its various exhibits. Town Crier

A popular downtown destination...

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Books

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree


Author Tiffany Papageorge is scheduled to sign copies of new her book 11 a.m. Dec. 6 at Linden Tree Books, 265 State St., Los Altos.

Papageorge’s “My Yellow Balloon” (Minoan Moon, 2014) is a Mom’s Choice “Gold” winner. In the book, the Los Gat...

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People

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

January 11, 1939 – November 6, 2014
Resident of Mountain View

James Windell Smith, a 40 year resident of Los Altos, passed away from complications after a post-surgery stroke November 6th, 2014 in Los Gatos, California.

Born on January 11, 1939 on...

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Travel

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine


Eren Göknar/ Special to the Town Crier
While many day-trippers may think that Sonoma is all about the grapes, the region boasts other delights. Try a biplane ride over the patchwork landscape.

Sonoma, a scenic two-hour drive from Los Altos, boa...

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Stepping Out

LA Stage Company opens 'Fairway'

The Los Altos Stage Company production of Ken Ludwig’s new comedy “The Fox on the Fairway” is slated to run Thursday through Dec. 14 at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

A tribute to the English farces of the 1930s and 1940s, “Fox” is a romp that p...

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Spiritual Life

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am


The Beth Am Women have scheduled “A Conversation with Author Maggie Anton” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills.

Anton, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, will discu...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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A celebration of survival for parents of ECH neonatal graduates

Photo Mary Beth Hislop/Town CrierAt nearly 9 months of age, Drew Cutler celebrated survival with family and his away-from-home family, El Camino Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit medical staff. Pictured, from left, are Drews mom, Carolyn Cutler, Drews brother Ty, grandparents Audrey and Bill Cutler, father Thomas and Drew, in his fathers arms.

It’s all the stuff that makes a great party – balloons and streamers, clowns, cake and ice cream, and the joyful squeals of young children having a good time. But what made this celebration extra special for many of the children is the “Once upon a time” – the story that begins in El Camino Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Mountain View resident Carolyn Cutler was just 26 weeks pregnant with her second child when she went into labor and delivered Drew, a 2-pound, 1-ounce baby boy 14 weeks shy of reaching full-term. Drew spent his first three months of life in El Camino’s NICU, attached to machines that helped him live as his little body fought off the complications common to premature newborns – a lung infection, problems with digestion and sepsis.

“We just really didn’t know in our heart of hearts what was going to happen,” Cutler said of her son. “These little guys – when they’re born this early, it’s critical.”

Cutler and her family went through a roller-coaster ride of emotions over the next few weeks after the birth – elated that Drew was here, but worried about the challenges he faced.

At a time when most families are bonding with their babies – feeding, changing, holding and cooing at their budding bundles of joy – Drew rested behind the walls of his isolette, barely visible among the numerous wires attached to his little body. Cutler said she couldn’t touch or hold Drew in those first few weeks as his weight dipped to 1 pound, 7 ounces.

“At that point, he belonged to the machines,” she said.

Cutler said she knew Drew was improving with each machine that disappeared from his side.

“His hurdles were measured by the equipment,” Cutler said. “It gave us milestones along the way.”

Cutler couldn’t say enough about the professionalism, care and attention Drew received in the NICU nursery – or about the emotional support she received from the nurses.

“The nurses kept our spirits up,” she said.

So, a week shy of his 9-month birthday, Drew and his family returned to El Camino Hospital June 27 for the NICU’s yearly reunion of Level III babies, a celebration for the graduates, their families and medical staff.

“It’s great – we really look forward to seeing them annually,” said Yvonne Chu, a nurse in the neonatal unit.

And with the technological advances Chu has seen in the 17 years she’s been a NICU nurse, outcomes for premature babies are improving all the time.

“This is what we work for,” she said. “I would have to say that 99.5 percent of our babies go home.”

Normal gestation for infants is 40 weeks – births between 37 and 42 weeks are considered full-term, and births before 37 weeks are considered premature. Approximately 12.8 percent of all births in the United States are premature – more than half a million yearly – according to information from the March of Dimes.

Neonatologist Dharshi Sivakumar, M.D., said El Camino’s NICU treats 450-500 premature babies each year and has witnessed vast technological improvements for the infants in the past 10 years.

“You want to have the right level of care,” Sivakumar said. “I’m so proud of what we have done here.”

Treating premature infants doesn’t start at birth, she said. Mothers at risk for premature delivery are given steroids to help babies’ lungs mature.

“That makes a big difference how they do respirator-wise,” Chu said.

Drug therapies keep the lungs from collapsing while oscillators pump tiny puffs of air into undeveloped lungs to keep them inflated, a high-frequency ventilating system introduced in 2002.

“It ventilates without the pressure and prevents lung disease,” Sivakumar said. “In the last six to seven years, we have come a long way.”

Two decades ago, a child born at 28 weeks would have had a higher mortality risk than a child born today and treated in a neonatal unit.

“At 28 weeks, we really have hardly any problem,” Sivakumar said. “Between 24 and 27 (weeks), we really have to work very hard.”

Premature births have increased 36 percent since the early 1980s, according to March of Dimes statistics, although there is no one specific explanation for the jump.

Many mothers with no obvious risk factors give birth prematurely, Sivakumar said.

“Nobody knows why,” she said.

What is important to know or understand is the level of intervention a premature baby will require. Infants with immediate surgical needs should be born at a hospital with a Level IV neonatal unit, such as Stanford Hospital. Sivakumar said transporting premature infants is difficult and should be avoided.

“You want to have the right level of care from the start,” she said.

Kristine Festa of San Jose knew her baby needed extra help from almost the beginning. Festa was carrying twins when she discovered one of them would be stillborn. Festa gave birth to son Ian five weeks early, at 4 pounds, 5 ounces. She and Ian returned June 27 for the second year to visit with their doctor, Sivakumar.

“We’re close to Good Samaritan,” Festa said, “but all of our doctors and nurses are here.”

Despite the medical advances for the country’s youngest patients, not all stories that begin “Once upon a time” have a happy ending.

“We all cry with the parents,” Chu said of fellow nurses. “It’s absolutely OK to cry with them.”

Nurses also work extensively with their tiny patients’ families, teaching them skills to care for their babies and instilling the confidence they need to trust themselves once they get home.

Cutler said she worried about bringing Drew home after three months in the NICU, but as he continues to grow and thrive, his earlier problems fade into distant memories.

“My child is happy – he’s eating, he’s healthy,” Cutler said. “You just remember you have a little, little baby you love and adore.”

For more information, visit www.elcaminohospital.org.

Contact Mary Beth Hislop at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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